Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Report: NYS Officials Knew For 30 Years Of Severe Lead, Arsenic Contamination In Soil Adjoining Old Foundry In Upstate City & Failed To Tell Property Owners, Residents Until Last Month

In Geneva, New York the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports:
  • Thirty years ago, New York state officials first uncovered evidence that toxic metals from an old foundry in this historic Finger Lakes city had contaminated an adjoining neighborhood.

    A state environmental health expert concluded then that people were at risk of lead poisoning and neighbors should be warned. "Young children (those prone to placing fingers, other objects or dirt in their mouths) are of particular concern," the expert, Dr. John Hawley, wrote in an internal memorandum in June 1987.

    A decade later, consultants presented additional evidence to state and city of Geneva officials that the toxic contamination was widespread in that same near-north side neighborhood.

    The consultants recommended that the lead-laden soil in yards be removed.

    But state and city officials never warned residents and the decision to clean it up was deferred 16 more years, a Democrat and Chronicle investigation has found. Children dug for worms and played in the dirt, and adults planted gardens for more than a generation; oblivious to the small but real risk posed by that tainted soil.

    The silence ended only in early October, when state environmental officials mailed letters to nearly 100 properties near the former Geneva Foundry site, informing the owners their soil contained lead or arsenic in concentrations that are considered unsafe.

    The threat is significant enough, officials told startled neighborhood residents, that the state will spend $17 million to dig up the bad soil and cart it away.

    They did not, however, tell residents that they’d known about the contamination for 30 years.

    "The data on the toxicity of lead and arsenic are irrefutable. It's really shocking that these people were not informed," said Walter Hang, who operates an environmental data firm in Ithaca and who was deeply involved in a highly publicized lead-contamination site in that city.
    ***
    The Geneva Foundry site fits a disquieting pattern.

    While most of the thousands of old hazardous waste sites in New York were cleaned up relatively quickly, others languished with pollutants in place, caught up in a lack of funding or bureaucratic molasses; little-known or forgotten until events bring them to light in a burst of jarring publicity.

    In Geneva, that notoriety came Oct. 12, when the DEC released a fact sheet informing residents and businesses in a 55-acre section just north of the city's highly touted downtown that their soil contained excess lead and arsenic.

    Of 107 properties tested, the soil at 98 of them contained one or both metals in concentrations that are considered unacceptably high.

    Citizens were told that extensive testing done in late 2015 had found arsenic in the soil averaged 25 parts per million, with a maximum of 228 ppm. The cleanup objective — the concentration that DEC has deemed acceptable — is 16 ppm. ...
For more, see Lead tainting Geneva's soil kept hidden for 30 years. EPA environmental protection agency smelter foundry

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